Students of the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF) and Muslim Students Association (MSA) sat around a round table in the basement of Cochran Chapel to break a day’s fast on Wednesday, May 23, showing solidarity between the two faith groups on campus.
The day’s fast was a part of Ramadan, a month of fasting observed by Muslims worldwide. Although Ramadan is a time for reflection and celebration of spirituality, the tradition can leave Muslim students on campus struggling to juggle both the fasting restrictions and life at Andover, according to Noureddine El Alam, future MSA advisor and Instructor in Mathematics.
Mary Kantor, Roman Catholic Chaplain and CSF advisor, explained how the interfaith event was initiated by students on the CSF board, who had felt motivated to show support for their fellow students of faith. She said that CSF particularly wanted to build a communal space for students breaking fast.
“[CSF] started talking about how maybe we could do [breaking the fast] with them, as a communal effort to maybe help them not feel isolated, to let them know that they were part of a community and were being supported,” said Kantor.
Moumina Khan ’19, Co-Head of MSA, said that she appreciated the gesture by CSF, noting the importance of different faith groups on campus giving support to one another and sharing a sense of community.
“The CSF was really kind, and they invited the MSA over to an Iftar, a breaking of the fast together, because they knew that a lot of the boarding students didn’t get to break their fasts with other people; they usually broke them in their dorms and they just had food from [Paresky] Commons that they had to heat in the microwave. So, they decided to do something really nice and host a dinner for us so we would be able to break the fast as a community,” said Khan.
El Alam expressed how he was was moved by the eagerness of the CSF, who showed their support to fellow students of faith.
“[The invitation] was really kind of them. It speaks to students’ character here. We can be weak in math or physics or English as students, but we are very empathetic… The students, they’re very empathetic, very sweet, very nice, they think about others, and I think the Non Sibi component or pillar at this school is paying dividends,” said El Alam.
El Alam continued, “I just hope that people take a leap of faith and do more of those things. They don’t have to be of people of faith, of any club… Just take the initiative, as [CSF] did, and I thought it was awesome for them to think of the idea… and they brought us a beautiful dinner, and we were hungry, and we had sweets, and we had a sweeter conversation.”
Khan recognized the importance of finding ways to support and encourage faith groups on campus, as faith can be a stigmatized topic on campus.
Khan said, “I also know that groups of faith, in general, on campus are quite small, so it’s really nice to support each other and help each other.”
Kantor noticed similarities between the meal and with stories in The Bible, explaining how community plays an integral role in both Christianity and Islam.
“In the Christian scriptures, the person of Jesus has meals with lots of people. And a lot of the stories around Jesus are: he gets together and sits down and has dinner with lots of people. And that just kind of felt like the basic Christian message is to be in community and to share our table and it just sort of feels like of of those core things across tradition,” said Kantor.
Khan was also touched by the “extra mile” that the CSF put into the event in making it as welcoming as possible, including lighting candles, setting the table, and serving small cakes.